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Wimbledon Final: A Rematch of 2014

Novak Djokovic Roger Federer

The 2015 men’s singles Wimbledon final will be contested between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, like last year. The World No. 1 and defending champion, Djokovic, has won his matches comfortably in three sets with the exception of the five-setter in the Round of 16 against Kevin Anderson. The World No. 2, Federer, has been impressive so far; he has dropped only one set, against Sam Groth, in the Round of 32, and the only time his serve was broken was in the quarterfinal against Gilles Simon.

Federer comes to the final after an impressive semifinal win against Andy Murray. Federer was rock-solid in his service games. He served 20 aces and won 84% of points on his first serve and in the second set he won all of those.

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Djokovic had big trouble against Kevin Anderson in the Round of 16. Anderson had played a good grass season, making the final at the Queen’s Club, so his good performance wasn’t quite so surprising. Anderson, with his big serve and net play, took the first two sets and was able to trouble Djokovic till the end of the match.

Great serving (in a different way to Anderson) and net play are also Federer’s strengths, so I think he has the tools to beat Djokovic. And Anderson showed Djokovic is vulnerable. So did Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final, although on clay. Both matches showed offensive game puts Djokovic in trouble. Of course, Djokovic returns well and has a great defense but so does Murray, too, whom Federer just impressively beat. If Federer serves like today, he will be very hard to break and Djokovic can’t afford bad service games.

The head-to-head is 20-19 to Federer. He used to be a difficult match-up for Djokovic; for example, he was the first to defeat Djokovic in 2011, in the French Open semifinal. Later Djokovic got good wins over Federer, such as the World Tour Finals final in 2012 and the Wimbledon final last year. Since 2014 the head-to-head is 5-4 to Djokovic, including Federer’s withdrawal from the World Tour Finals final. But on faster surfaces (Dubai, Wimbledon, Shanghai), Federer has fared well against Djokovic; matches 3-1 and sets 8-4 to Federer. So this is surely a great chance for Federer.

Djokovic came to Wimbledon as the runner-up of the French Open. He had finally beaten Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros but got outplayed in the final against Stan Wawrinka. Being denied the French Open title once again may have hurt him but I don’t think it’s hurting his self-confidence here. He didn’t throw a win away; he simply got outplayed. He got outplayed by Anderson for two sets, yet he didn’t fold but won in five. That sort of consistency can pay dividends in best-of-five. Still, those Wawrinka and Anderson matches have showed he can get outplayed, and Federer surely can do that for an entire match. Also, Djokovic’s Grand Slam final record isn’t particularly great for a player of his caliber: 8-8. Playing all but two of those finals against a non-Big Four opponent partly explains that, but also shows some vulnerability; after all he isn’t so dominant.

Federer is playing for a record eighth Wimbledon title, currently sharing the record of seven with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw. While he looked ageless in the semifinal against Murray, he’ll be 34 in a month and he’s the oldest Wimbledon finalist in 41 years. He won’t have many more chances to break the threeway tie, plus get to 18 total Grand Slam titles, furthering himself one more from Nadal, who has 14. But I don’t think pressure from that will be a factor on Sunday; Federer knows how to win, especially at Wimbledon.

I think this is on Federer’s racquet. If he plays his best tennis, he will outplay Djokovic. He must serve well against Djokovic’s great return, be aggressive, and avoid getting into long baseline rallies where Djokovic is too solid. Djokovic must defend well against Federer’s offensive game but he must not be too passive, otherwise he’s giving the keys to victory to Federer and can only hope Federer starts missing his shots.

Of course, Djokovic beat Federer last year in the Wimbledon final and Federer is probably the one facing the effects of aging faster now. But still, I think Federer is better prepared for the final this year. He had been coached by Stefan Edberg only since the start of the last season and I think his game reached its peak later that year when he won the Shanghai Masters, defeating Djokovic in two sets in the semifinal. Federer can still be the best player on fast surfaces; on Sunday he must be that to win the Wimbledon final.

Cover Photo (Creative Commons License): Marianne Bevis

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About Kalle Tyynelä

Kalle Tyynelä blogs for Tennis Frontier.
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